When the ball of the European Union debate was set rolling only some months ago, many must have thought that only the Common Agricultural Policy, Lisbon Treaty, and oily mechanics of the European machine would be up for cross-examination. But it has become obvious the Brexit vote does not just point to a discontent with Brussels, but to a pent up fury with the neoliberalism status quo, which many see as gnawing away at the skeletons of their once vibrant British communities.
Myriad citizens through the UK let their fury with the state of their own union show through a vote for Brexit, shunning globalisation and yearning for increased self-determination. Theresa May must not only make a success of the Brexit bills, but also of those who feel left behind at the peripheries of fast paced and global 21st century. The government needs to spark the waning coals of once lively industrial communities to prevent them from slipping into greater despair.
British discontent may stretch to the European institutions, but qualms with the current international order lie much close to home, in fact. The Prime Minister must work fast in order to eradicate the corrosice flow of discontent which cascades through areas of Northern England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which feel more isolated from the UK than ever before.
The Leave campaign had generated a great deal of support amongst wealthier voters. But the more astonishing facet of the European Union referendum was the sheer number of working class individuals who sided with the Eurosceptics. The most anti-EU areas of Britain, shown to be Boston and South Holland in Lincolnshire, alongside regions like Castle Point and Great Yarmouth in the East, each show similar social trends. These areas have a diverse minority ethnic population, as well as poor standards of education, and a lower quality of life.
The very different issues which face the Prime Minister regarding Scotland will not disappear easily, either. Scotland’s vote to remain as part of the EU was purely a rejection of English Eurosceptic sentiment instead and, in some cases, to do with growing Westminster disregard for Scottish politics. The support for the remain campaign north of the border has shown that Scottish interests are very different to those of England. Support for Scottish independence has seen a slow but sure increase, and could threaten Theresa May’s premiership. In the same way in which she must repair relations with the north of England, the Prime Minister must now bring Scottish political issues to the fore if she is to succeed in maintaining the longevity of the union.
Rejuvenating Britain’s foreign relationships, as well as tweaking the operation of the union are May’s next challenges.
If the centuries old British union crumbles, it may erode May’s premiership, too. Theresa May’s plans as part of her Industrial Strategy Committee are a welcome sign of planned improvements for the northern parts of England, and should bolster the togetherness of the UK. The committee on Tuesday pledged to work on the UK’s economy in areas outside of the south east of England, chiefly in areas of Manchester and in the further north. Rail link projects have also been proposed in order to boost connections between northern English communities, also in the hopes of increased economic activity.
But if the Union proves too difficult to sustain in its current form, perhaps federalism is the answer. Of course, this is the outcome that the Prime Minister would dread most of all. As the nations which comprise the UK become increasingly diverse and are evidently in need of specific regional solutions to bespoke issues, perhaps a form of ‘devo-max’ across four identical regional assemblies would relieve the Westminster Parliament in its obstinacy that one size fits all.
When the new Prime Minister took on the challenge of renegotiating Britain’s place in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, the task of saving the union came, too. The EU referendum has shown up the deep social and economic differences which set each UK nation apart. Making a success of Brexit will clearly involve domestic upheaval as well as a rethink of British foreign affairs.
Unless Theresa May and her government work fast to repair the relationship with Westminster and the worn-out areas of the UK, the age-old union which has bound Britain together may begin to disintegrate. An agenda which successfully irons out the creases in the societal fabric woven between the societies of Southern England, Northern England and Scotland, must be designed. Making a success of Britain itself is vital before it can be deemed a success in front of the rest of the world.